All That Was Missing was Freebird!

Photo by Tenaya Hills Quetzal
Domingo Siete

Carolina Sarmiento took the mic at Centro Cultural de México to tell people, “There is life happening here.” And then she showed us the evidence: Domingo Siete, an LA-based tropical hurricane. Led by diva Claudia Tenorio—simultaneously distant and alluring, with a voice that belongs in the National Archive—the sextet hit all the right notes, from the stately counterpoints of danzón to accordion-driven vallenato and original fusions of wide-ranging Caribbean rhythms.

Eastlos supersextet Quetzal followed with the subtly explosive opener “Planta de Los Pies.” Lead goddess Martha González stomped on the wooden-floor instrument known as the tarima with such force you thought she was sounding for oil. In the intimate, sweaty Centro, Quetzal were the aural equivalent of a fire hazard, and their opening set was the best half-hour of music we've seen in a while. (Gustavo Arellano)

Dados Por Vivos
The Helmut Stein Experience
Natural Afrodisiac
The Brass Taxx
English Motorbike



English Motorbike is something of a sonic wank-job, your basic blooz-rawk bar band with not a single original impulse. They're decent instrumentalists, though, which was made (often painfully) clear when each player was given a predictable solo turn as if they'd just stepped out of a 1978 time capsule, the last year anyone gave a shit about such masturbatory excess. All that was missing was “Free Bird,” and if they stuck around longer than their allotted time, English Motorbike probably would've tried it.

Welcome to the Orange County Music Awards, semifinal round, Best Live Band category. We weren't voting, but if we were, we'd have honored the tits—more on which in a moment.

Coming up fast on English Motorbike were the Brass Taxx, a punkish rock band whose girl singer warbled—Turkey-call imitator? Epilepsy? The music was all over the place and migraine-inducing—like being pummeled in the skull with a ball-peen hammer every five seconds. The material was positively eye-rolling: “Here's a song about drinkin' we like to call 'Line 'Em Up,'” she pronounced, a song that had lines about “just another fucked-up day,” and you got the sense that if Gwen Stefani were to ever do Mike Ness impersonations, it'd kinda sound like this. Afterward, an Anonymous Guy told us Brass Taxx “kind of grew on me at the end,” to which we couldn't help replying, “You mean like fungus? Or cancer?”

We had to wade through this swill before reaching the sublime, which is always an apt Natural Afrodisiac description. You know this already: the saxes, the horns, the congas, the vocal foreplay, the unstoppable bass grooves, the eight-man wonder that is unquestionably one of the funkiest, freshest dance bands in all of OC. And how many booties were bumping? Three! At set peak!“Who let all these corpses inside the Gypsy Lounge?!?” we wanted to scream. Then an Anonymous Drunk Guy made us more depressed, saying they sounded like Gloria Estefan.

And then the classy R&B/soul/blues of the Helmut Stein Experience, headed up by the big, throbbing organ of R. Scott and the sultry, smoky pipes of blond, braless singer April Sweeney, who wore a slinky black dress she kept pulling up to avoid a Janet. “Bet you something's gonna pop out,” we swear we told the sound guy in back. Then, after she stroked her microphone, after she dropped to her knees, after she wailed and wailed with the awesome power of someone who could easily front a Janis Joplin tribute band, there it was, right at the end of their set: boobage! And don't even try telling us that wasn't planned! We were so startled—hey, it ain't like we get to see a pair of mammaries in person that often—we almost forgot they didn't do our favorite tune, “On Return.” But as far as lasting impressions go, they sure left two.

Dados por Vivos . . . you mean there was another band after Helmut Stein? (Rich Kane)

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